The black swan is the only swan native to Australia and until it was discovered, all swans were assumed to be white. The phrase a black swan was even used to refer to something fantastical such as a white elephant or a blue moon. This bird is suggestive of something unbelievable and also a reminder to us to check our assumptions.
The black swan theory describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalised after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying which presumed black swans did not exist, but the saying was rewritten after black swans were discovered in the wild.
They are very similar to their white feathered relatives, exhibiting the same grace, mating for life and displaying violent and aggressive behaviour when threatened. That said, the black swan is the least territorial of all the swans and tends to move in flocks.
One dreamtime story explains how two brothers were turned into white swans to help an attack party. After the raid, eagles attacked the white swans, tearing their feathers from them. The eagles enemy, the crows, helped the two brothers by giving them black feathers from their own backs. The red beak of the back swan is the blood of the two brothers and has stayed there ever since.
Another story tells of a proud fisherman who was so pleased with himself, having caught a baby bunyip, that he wanted to go and show off. Before he could turn back and tell of his great achievement, the mother bunyip rose from the water sending floods around the men. She took back her baby and as the water settled back down, the men found they had been turned into black swans. The punishment for the fisherman’s vanity was to remain like that forever.